What happens when you call 911?

HOLBROOK, Mass. — While one dispatcher takes a 911 call, another dispatcher will send first responders to the callers’ exact location. That teamwork saves precious seconds.

“Everyday seconds make a difference,” said Holbrook’s Deputy Director of Communications Lauren Mielke. “If you’re suffering from a medical emergency, those seconds, they feel like minutes, they feel like hours.”

They are the first, first responders, sending help as soon as possible when you need help the most.

The 911 dispatchers come from 217 call centers across the state, but the goal is to shrink the number of locations.

While most of Massachusetts 351 municipalities still use localized public safety answering points or PSAPS, Holbrook was one of the first to go regional.

“It’s a more efficient service,” said Mielke. “We’re able to staff appropriately. If you look at the national staffing shortage right now, many PSAPS, and I know in the Commonwealth right now, we’re experiencing this very shortage. It’s because of the stress of the job, potentially pay. It’s hard to find people who want to do this job. The hours tend to be difficult at times.”

The tough job is only made better when these dispatchers realize their impact.

“There have been times where people are like, ‘No, I’m fine.’ But there’s just something there that you’re like, ‘No,’ to me it just doesn’t feel right,’ said telecommunicator dispatcher Bridget Mullen.

“Somebody was ordering a pizza, and it ended up being a domestic disturbance,” said Mielke about one incident.

The dispatchers moonlighting as detectives have different methods to make sure you’re safe including the silent call procedure.

“If nobody answers at that point, they’ll say if you need police press one if you need to fire press two, if you need an ambulance, press three,” said Mielke.

If you’re in an emergency where you’re not able to physically call 911 most phones will have an option for you to hold down the side button or even press it five times. And you’ll get a screen where you can just slide and call 911. Even if someone accidentally calls or texts, they still send an officer just in case. These days you can even text 911.

“Do you have a fire? Is somebody there that you can’t talk, you can only text? I need to know if I’m sending police, fire, or ambulance,” said Mullen. “If there’s any question we send everybody.”

“That’s, that’s the beauty of this profession. it could go from zero to 60. In a matter of seconds,” said Mielke. “You just never know what you’re going to be handling at any given moment. Believe it or not, Thursday afternoons at one o’clock are when we receive our most 911 calls. And it’s not even during rush hour. So I don’t know why.”

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